Monday, December 10, 2012

Brief commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower

The Secret of the Golden Flower was written through the planchette by Lu DongBin, a Quanzhen Patriarch and one of the renowned Eight Daoist Immortals, according to stories accompanying the text told to Richard Wilhelm – a translator of the text. Another translation of the text is by Thomas Cleary.

Both translations of this Daoist text appear to enjoy great popularity in the West over the decades, since many of its readers who are Daoists, Confucians, or Buddhists can find some resonance with the teachings therein depending on which translation they use. However its popularity also brought out the usual miscreants to cheat and/or to mislead students. Therefore it is unsurprising to read on the World Wide Web the advertisements of self proclaimed ‘teachers or masters’ who have mastered the Secret of the Golden Flower. Real neidan adepts would not make such claims.

Also many have gone onto the TaoBums forum to claim great achievements from practising what is taught in the Secret of the Golden Flower. They are not among the first and certainly will not be the last to claim that. And it gets tiring to put each of such claims to rest, after awhile.

Therefore I will make it as simple and easy as possible for readers to understand what is taught and not taught in this Daoist text. (Similar to what was written today for Taobums members but with more details for readers of the blog)

People asked, ‘How is the Light circulated?’

The Light circulates together with the Qi.

‘How is Qi circulated?’

The Qi is circulated through meditation.

‘Why is the Light not seen during meditation?’

There are many reasons for the inability to see the Light:

Ancestor Lu DongBin, the author of the Secret of the Golden Flower text, had assumed that Chinese readers already know how to still their heart (Daoists directly taught by Daoist Celestial Immortals initially practise that). Meditation using the backward flow method is required to empty the mind. Both Laozi and the Buddha had taught that. (Refer to the TTC and the Sutras)

Thomas Cleary, I have been told, has made the claim on several occasions in his translation, that the text is not on meditation per se. Such claims were probably made because of his Buddhist training. Therefore the Buddhists and Confucians would find some resonance with his translation.

While contemplation practised by Confucians and by Chan Buddhists, as indicated by Lu DongBin, is required to crystallize or ‘fix’ the Light, it is not the main teaching in this Daoist text. Only with the backward flow meditation and a still heart, the practitioner will be able to see the Light; and if he or she is still unable to, start to contemplate to crystallize the Light.

Therefore to claim that the Secret of the Golden Flower is not a meditation text is misleading, to say the least.

Besides that, just reading and practising what is written in the text is insufficient to take anyone no matter how brilliant or diligent to reach good aptitude in neidan practice. The confirmations of good aptitude are indicated in the text – which are important signposts of the Way.

Probably only the Book of Changes and the Tao Te Ching contain the complete teachings of neidan practice, but these ancient classics will prove too profound for any student or even whiz kids.

So therefore two of the Quanzhen Patriarchs - Lu Dongbin and Wang Chongyang –, and their friend, Chen Tuan, who went on to become Daoist Celestial Immortals, advised that students read and understand the Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist doctrines and to practise the teachings therein to make the Return.

When the neidan practitioner can empty the mind and still the heart, he or she is practising the Return as indicated by Laozi in his Tao Te Ching written for Guan Yinshi – who was the first to mention ‘The Circulation of the Light’. As long as they are making this Return, it does not really matter what it is called – return to the Light, return to Heaven, return to Destiny, return to Tao, or return to the Origin.

But if you do not know how to really empty the mind and still the heart please refrain from making false claims of great achievements on the Web so that students will not be misled. For the esoteric, such false claims would do more harm than good to both yourself and the misled; since Lu Dongbin appears to know whenever people talk extensively on his Secret of the Golden Flower on the Web!

But how would I know?



Zac said...

Thank you Allan, this is very helpful commentary.

baroness radon said...

I second the first comment.

Anonymous said...

How about Hindu teaching? I think it's as good as Buddha, Tao.

Allan said...

Zac and baroness radon,

Thank you for the compliments.


Since I am not familiar with Hindu sutras, texts and Hinduism, I would not be able to provide an answer to your question except for this general comment:

"All major religions in the world including Hinduism teach their believers and followers to be good persons."

And for esoteric readers only, Daoist deities and celestial immortals, and Buddhas still continue to teach people to be good.

Anonymous said...

Can you make list of classic and traditional ,ancient translated to english books (bibliography) about these topic of tao etc? I mean, no new age stuff.


Allan said...


Yes, but it would require much time, efforts, and expense to research and compile such a bibliography which I cannot afford to spend.